Healing, Hope and Who Wants a Jellyfish Sandwich?

When we last touched base, our long-suffering, long-term camper (me) was in the throes of despair over wintery weather, ill health, and ceaseless setbacks with the home building plan. I was not in a good place…

In Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien states, “Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” He’s right. I was more than forlorn. I was despondent, but after a visit to an urgent care, a 20 degree rise in ambient temperature, and a little good news on the construction front, I am feeling a strange, almost buoyant sensation. Could it be hope? Is it possible that there is a genuine glimmer at the end of this long, dark tunnel?

The Ocean has restorative power. The rhythm of the tide, the gentle breezes and the salt air create a tranquility that washes over you, encourages introspection, and empowers you to move forward. with an attitude of gratitude.

With a renewed spirit, and improved health, I ventured out to have a little fun.

Myrtle Beach is all about pancake houses, quaint inlet bars, shopping, entertainment venues, breweries and GOLF. If you are a serious golfer, there are roughly 60 golf courses in the immediate area. If you are a woefully weak duffer, like I am, there are still lots of options for dragging out those clubs. You can try your hand at Top Golf, putter around an executive course, or enjoy a myriad of mini-golf options.

Myrtle Beach State Park is an absolute gem. The beachfront is pristine, the hiking trails are thick with native vegetation and the campsites are large. Because March is not yet tourist season, the oceanfront is uncrowded with the exception of a few surfers, fishermen, and children who do not mind plunging, like polar bears, into the surf.

There are, however, a large number of jellyfish that wash up on the beach every morning. I’m a little surprised that these gelatinous blobs are appearing this early in the year. I thought they were warm water creatures. There is much I do not know about Medusozoa, other than that they are creepy and would not taste good with peanut butter.

I have had an epiphany. It is truly springtime. The calendar says so, and I am beginning to believe that this crazy dream of lakefront living will actually come true. If I can make it through a mid-Atlantic April, which is a notoriously vicious month, I will be on the homestretch! Since we will soon be back to Maryland and on the ballfields with our grandkids, the next couple of months should fly by. And then…. here we come, Lake Anna…

Off to North Carolina in the morning.

Stay tuned….

Time for a Tantrum

There are a few things that make me grumpy. I do not like cold. I do not like feeling unwell. I do not like learning of delays in our home building saga. It’s been the perfect trifecta since arriving in South Carolina.

Flip flops have been replaced by boots. Ball caps have been replaced by woolen ski hats. Gloves have made a reappearance. Grouchy and grumbling, I convinced my surly self to layer-up, take a walk, and channel some appreciation for my surroundings. My attempts to seek positivity were short-lived as my mantra soon became “this cold weather crap is for the birds.”

Cold makes me cantankerous, but something else was amiss. As I trudged along I realized that I was tired, lagging behind and limping a bit. Wait! Could I be getting sick? I have a super-strong constitution. I have a remarkable immune system. Covid was afraid of me. There was simply no way that I could be feeling lousy, on the road, this far away from home.

Oh. Never mind. I don’t have a home. Like these turtles, I am carrying my house on my back.

Even these tortoise had to hunch together to say warm.

I’m freezing. I’m ill. I’m beginning to relate to these reptiles.

Thank goodness that I have friends and family that are in the medical profession. I was able to relay my symptoms via phone call and was soon loading up on antibiotics.

Did I mention that it was St. Patrick’s Day? With these meds onboard it was going to be a dry celebration for me.

Still, I did not want to spoil all of the fun associated with Gaelic gaiety. I may not have had the luck of the Irish but my husband, at least, deserved a dram of Guinness.

“May the wind always be at your back…” It’s part of an Irish prayer. The wind was at our back, our front, our sides, and in our faces. We lasted about an hour before the extremely cold wind blew us back to Bertha.

Furthermore, we have NOT received the expected notification that framing has been completed on our house. If I don’t soon get some good news, I can going to throw myself on the ground and start thrashing around like a tortured toddler

Rant over. Probably not. Okay, the current rant is temporarily over.

I may be crestfallen but we continue to don our winter wear and find a way to enjoy what we can.

There are certain signs of Spring. I will heal. The sun will eventually warm the earth. The [expletive deleted] builder will finish the home construction. Patience, grasshopper….

And as my granddaughter reminded me, when we began this journey over 16 months ago: Slow and Steady Wins The Race.

Critters Defeat Campers

The swampy seacoast of Georgia is filled with critters like gators and snakes. It is also swarming with biting gnats, and crawling with deer and raccoon. “Look at this wonderful array of wildlife”, I said, as we settled into our site. “Let’s buy some flowers and put them in pots around the campsite. It will feel more like home”. So we did.

We were admiring our pretty set-up when it became crystal clear that we were only temporary tenants, the gnats were the landlords. We already had a screen-room, but it was not very tightly sealed, so we made an executive decision. It was time for a new, pop-up screen room that would provide better protection. It was easy to assemble and we were feeling smug about defeating those pesky proprietors, until they demonstrated that no screen had a small enough weave to stop them. Soon we had a brand-spanking, new shelter that was full of flying insects that were determined to feed on us. Gnats win.

Bugs aside, it was still really pretty, and summerlike outside. We would simply have to admire the new, potted flowers from inside the RV. No defeatist attitude here. This is when we discovered that we have been vagabonds for far too long. Somewhere in our travels we had forgotten that deer would love our new flowers even more that we did. It was a veritable salad bar for those four-legged foragers. We now have five hand-painted flower pots filled with stalks. Deer win.

This may not be a surprising revelation, but Gypsy is spoiled. She has had nothing but breed-and-age-specific Royal Canin food (at over $100/bag) since the day she came to live with us. We lug that food around in the back of the pick-up truck since it is too bulky to put inside the RV. Helpful Hint: It’s always best to completely close the truck-bed cover. Did you know that raccoons have a keen sense of smell, and that they are quite fond of expensive dog kibble? Raccoons win.

Still unwilling to raise the white flag of defeat, we headed away from wildlife and into the city of Savannah. It is such a walkable urban area. The squares and streets are park-like. The monuments and aging architecture provide seemingly endless living history lessons. The shopping and restaurant districts are absolutely bustling.

I love immersing myself in bygone eras and imagining what life was like for our forebearers. We visited Wormsloe, a colonial estate established in 1736 by a compatriot of James Oglethorpe.

We also spent at day at Fort McAllister, which had been attacked by ironclad ships during the civil war, but survived these bombardments because it was an earthen-work fort, rather than a masonry structure. The fort eventually fell, as it was the last stop on General Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The critters on Savage Island had a resounding 3-0 victory over the campers, but we are looking for a rematch at our next stop in Myrtle Beach.

Stay tuned…

Georgia is Just Peachy!

I’ve spent the best part of the past few years discovering America. We’ve seen many extraordinary places and have made an art of exploring our own backyard. Each area of our vast country has bragging rights. This is an impressive land we live in.

Maybe it’s because we have had absolutely stellar weather for most of February, maybe it’s because I love the salty, coastal breezes, maybe it’s because I love history and mystery shrouded in oak trees that are dripping with Spanish moss; whatever the reason, I have fallen in love with Georgia. It’s just peachy.

It’s been sunny and summerlike ever since our arrival in the Empire State of the South. The windows are open, the screen tent is up, the evenings are longer, and our Fitbits are logging in more steps. Flowers are emerging from their buds, Gopher Tortoise are peeking out of their burrows and birdsong fills the air. I am in my happy place.

Okay, weeds are also blooming, and everything we own is covered in a fuzzy green layer of pollen, but it’s nothing a little Claritin won’t fix.

It is also the time of year when prescribed burns are done to rid the forested areas of pine needles, dried leaves and brush, fighting fire with fire. I’m baffled about why the smoldering areas do not create a hazard, but I’m sure there is a science to it.

… And should an errant ember find it’s way out of the cypress forest, there is plenty of water around to dampen it.

The rivers and the swamps and the marshes and the inlets are breathtaking. The coastal plains and the Golden Isles are simply teeming with wildlife. I should mention that they are also currently teeming with gnats and “no-see-‘ums” and yes, the mosquitoes are making an early appearance. Still, nothing a whole lot of DEET and a little bit if hydrocortisone won’t fix.

There is also something inexorably romantic about the abundance of live oak trees that are cloaked in Spanish moss. They are hauntingly handsome, creating a backdrop of beauty that surrounds and speaks to you.

This area is also awash with historical places to visit. I intend to see as many as I can with the time that is allotted before we begin our trek northward.

Stay tuned…


Breaking the Law…. always a rebel

The ‘dog days’ of summer are not generally associated with the month of February. Those steamy, sultry days are more typically found in August. I cannot express how grateful I am that we have been blessed with a prolonged period of early, summer-like weather. Yes, flip-flops in February! My kind of winter. RV life is far more tolerable when the sun warms the air and invites you to spend significantly more time in the great outdoors.

For our Gypsy, every day is a dog day. Well, she is a dog, so it stands to reason, but she’s also a remarkably adaptable furry friend. She travels without incident, and is ALWAYS up for a walk. Her enthusiastic energy is boundless. Do they make dog-collar fit-bits? If so, she needs one.

Our lovable labrador is a total type-A tail-wagger. She does everything with great gusto. Mud wrestling is her favorite sport. She fears nothing, backs away from nothing, and is always the leader of the pack, even when she is substantially outsized.

After an amazing stay at Topsail Preserve, along Florida’s 30A, we arrived in the Coastal Plains of Georgia. If my family wasn’t so far from South Georgia, I could easily make this area my home.

Every day is a dog day in Georgia! GO DAWGS!

“Every dog must have his day.” – Jonathan Swift

Since this blog has already gone to the dogs, I should mention that our rough and tumble, Princess Pooch just celebrated her 2nd birthday. She celebrated her day by enjoying a fried egg atop her kibble. She was gifted with such delicacies as beef cheek and peanut butter bones.

She also has a new tough toy, a moose named Moose, that is bound to have a very short life expectancy.

This update has unexpectedly turned into a Dog Blog. Much more about why Georgia-is-Just-Peachy to come.

Stay tuned…

Tricky trails, and TV troubles…

Whoa! What is this about TVs? We are out in nature, planting ourselves at various magnificent campsites along the Gulf of Mexico. Where do televisions come into play? To set the record straight, we are not really camping. We are living in a truck. We do not have campfires while singing Kumbaya and eating smores EVERY night. We continue to attempt some normalcy in this less-than-normal living arrangement, which includes watching the news, etc. Although, pretty much everything about living in an RV is a bit unorthodox.

Let’s be real. We have about 210 square feet of living space. We live in a large, rectangular box, with a few partial walls thrown in to create the illusion of multiple rooms. In that space, we have three, yes folks, THREE flat screen, color TVs. This definitely feels like overkill for someone who grew up in a three-story home with one, black and white TV. Yet, panic ensued when the set in the ‘bedroom’ projected only a line running vertically down the screen. No picture?? On Super Bowl Sunday??

Neither one of us is particularly adept at electronics or projects involving tools. Yet, despite our lack of know-how, we removed the malfunctioning set and prepared to mount a new one. My husband made a beeline to the local Walmart, and we were soon the proud owners of a new 32″ Roku TV. Did it have the same mounting hardware? Of course not. A few angry expletive later, three of the four mounting screws were precariously holding a functioning television in place. The fourth screw is headless, broken, and will undoubtedly cause chaos when we have to drive this thing to Georgia in a few days. I am bracing for the crash….

There’s nothing like a brisk hike to take your mind off the agony of shoddy workmanship. We knew that there would be signs warning us of alligator dangers, but we did not anticipate possible impalement as a consequence of our walk. It kind of made the jerry-rigged TV look inconsequential.

To be fair, the exposed rebar was part of a project to reinforce and reestablish the dunes. The trip hazards were easily avoidable, and we emerged unscathed. The effort to fortify the dunes was paying off. The stroll took us through deep sand, and hills that were vibrant and replete with vegetation.

Here’s a shocker…. we have further delays on the house construction. With each delay notification, this 210 feet of living space seems to grow even smaller.

With only a few days remaining along The Gulf, I am going to concentrate on our good fortunes, rather than on the home building debacle.

Oh…. and Gypsy loves it here. Next installment: Dunes and Dogs.

Stay tuned…..

Fog, Forts, Florabama & Fossil Fuels

It’s not always sunny on the sunny Gulf Coast. In fact, we have had dense fog, frigid nights, and more than our fair share of gusty wind. Breezy is a gross understatement. We’ve had the “hang on to your hats” stuff but it is tolerable when the temperatures climb into the 60’s.

It’s not all fun and games, living the fulltime RV life. I’ve been doing some remote work for my former employer, and we still have to cook, clean, do laundry, go to the grocery store, etc. I needed a haircut. Gypsy (the princess pup) needed a manicure. Life doesn’t stop, it just looks a little different when you live on wheels.

Still, despite the workload and weather woes, we took advantage of intermittent, pleasant days to the hit some tourist traps.

I’m a bit of a nerdy, history buff and the Mobile Bay area is rife with historical landmarks. We visited Fort Morgan, which began construction in 1819 and was not completed until 1834. Sadly, it was enslaved men, women and children who labored for fifteen years, to manufacture and lay the 30,000,000 bricks that were used to erect this garrison.

In 1861 Fort Morgan was seized from the US Government by the Confederacy and became a safe haven for the stockade runners who were supplying the South with much needed supplies. Fort Morgan was also active during WWI and WWII. As you walk through the various archways, you feel the presence of ethereal beings; ghostly guards in tattered uniforms from past conflicts.

We also ferried to Dauphin Island, which was the capitol of The Louisiana Territory during colonial times. It was in this area that the Battle of Mobile Bay was fought. It was near Dauphin Island that Union admiral, David Farragut, ran his entire fleet directly through a minefield in order to claim Fort Morgan. Thus:

 “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,”

David Farragut

Mardi Gras is kind of a big deal along the Gulf Shore. February, prior to Ash Wednesday, is considered Mardi Gras season. It’s not just about going crazy on Fat Tuesday. It’s several weeks of drunken debauchery, and masks, and purple and green beads. Because life is not a spectator sport, we joined the festivities at the world famous Flora-Bama Lounge, where live music and licentiousness are legendary.

As a side note, although I do understand our current dependence on fossil fuels, I hope for a day when we can economically rely on energy sources that are less detrimental to the environment. There is such natural beauty in this region, but the presence of oil production definitely decimates the landscape.

On a lighter, much brighter note….


We have a foundation! That’s right, friends, we have a hole in the ground that is filled with cinder block!!!!

We are still displaced vagabonds, sentenced to wander the world for a while longer.

Yet, I foresee framing….

Stay tuned…

More Delays and Winter Days…

The wisdom is that a watched kettle never boils. That being the case, I almost wish that we were not getting weekly updates from our builder. It’s kind of like peeking into that slow-simmering kettle. With each week, there is a new delay. There is apparently a shortage of concrete, and winter weather has become a convenient excuse for the lack of progress on our house. Unlike the kettle, my boiling point is near-at-hand.

Winter weather is causing me angst at the homesite, but it sure is glorious on the Gulf. If you have to endure the short days, and cold nights, it’s easier in Southern Alabama. The beaches are virtually deserted, the air is cool, the sun is warm, and the opportunities for outdoor activities are endless.

There are roughly 500 RV sites at Gulf State Park, and they are not tightly packed together. There is ample room to spread out without infringing upon neighboring sites. The park boasts miles and miles of paved trails, and boardwalk, as well as two miles of sandy beachfront. There are tennis courts, pickle ball courts, a swimming pool, nature center and laundry facilities. It’s not a bad place to be when dealing with delays.

And so, the end of January nears, and February is approaching the starting gate. The shortest month is notoriously the worst month for inclement weather in the mid-Atlantic. I am not feeling much confidence in making significant headway on the house. I have grown cynical in my old age. Rather than to see the world through rose colored glasses, I buy rosé and pour it into glasses. When the world makes you wait, wine helps.

I wish I had the penchant for acceptance that our Labrador has. Gypsy, is not disturbed by the setbacks, she has mastered the art of finding joy in spite of circumstance.

One more week to explore Gulf Shores, then on to Florida’s panhandle.

Let’s hope that our project manager does not give up home construction for Lent.

Stay tuned…..

A Plumbing Fix, The “Sticks”, and a Motel 6

Let’s see. Where were we? Oh, that’s right, our water filter was erupting like Mount Saint Helen’s and we did not have the proper hardware to fix the problem. On the bright side, it’s easy to get 10,000 steps registered to your Fitbit when you have to use the bathhouse for all of your daily needs. But seriously, I walk enough. I needed water.

You would think it would be easy to find a plumbing fitting. Not so. It was like searching for Atlantis. Loew’s said, “Try Home Depot. Home Depot said, “Try Camper’s World”. Camper’s World said, “Try Marvin’s”. I didn’t know Marvin, but he’s my new best buddy. Turns out that Marvin’s is a building supply chain in the Southeast that carries 1/2″, elbowed, pex fittings. Eureka! We would be high, dry, and fully functional for our next stop.

Sherling Lake Campground was out in “the sticks” and had probably been there since the Eisenhower presidency. It’s old. Really old. It’s neat and tidy, fully operational and run by very friendly folks. It’s the aging infrastructure that is indicative of its maturity.

Call me crazy, but I really like these old recreational areas. When I wander the trails, I feel the ghosts of generations of picnickers, hikers, campers and anglers.

Speaking of anglers, we did happen upon a trawler who was fishing at the 5th hole on the neighboring golf course. Only in Alabama…

The town of Greenville, was close by and we finally had a sunny day for a little exploration. Known as the Camellia City, the quaint downtown boasts unique examples of 19th and 20th century architecture as well as an art deco style movie house.

Oh, yes, I nearly forgot to mention that we also found some unique retail in Greenville.

When you live in a truck, without a washer and dryer, your wardrobe is limited. Thus you tend to wear the same outfits multiple times. If you live in a truck with a Labrador, your minimal apparel tends to be covered in dog hair. In short, our duds are a disaster. We are about as far from Mr. & Mrs. Style as is humanly possible.

“Inviting people to laugh with you while you are laughing at yourself is a good thing to do. You may be a fool but you’re the fool in charge.”

Carl Reiner

I was ready to move on. In January, I am always in search of warmer weather.

Due to tornadic activity sweeping into the Gulf Shores area, we spent our first night on the Gulf of Mexico at a Motel 6. I tend to be anxious, and was not on board with spending the night in an RV, with tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and shear line winds. Call me paranoid, but with all of Bertha’s recent antics, I had to be sure that she was not secretly plotting to finish me off with a funnel cloud.

We have arrived at the calm after the storm. Gulf State Park has beachfront and miles and miles of multi-use trails.

Bertha survived the tempest. The sun is out. Nothing is leaking.

Stay tuned…

Bye to the ‘Burgh. Aloha Alabama. The Saga Continues… Volume II

It’s always bittersweet to say farewell to the holiday season. The cookies are eaten, the ornaments are carefully put away until next year, and the sparkling, colorful lights fade into the long winter ahead. Yet, the new year brings new beginnings, new adventures, and new milestones to achieve.

We had such an outstanding respite in Pittsburgh that it was tough to drag Bertha out of storage in order to resume our trek. We enjoyed a warm home, family, and fun times in the steel city. We had time to play games, shop in the Strip District, catch Shen Yun at the Benedum Center, and even take a winter hike at Raccoon Creek State Park. It was with a hint of heartache that we said bye to The ‘Burgh, but we shall return…

After a few months in storage, Bertha was covered in a dusty film, and was in total disarray. All of our packed “stuff” was tossed inside. The plan was to organize when we arrived at our initial campsite. I had imagined an orderly transition. What was I thinking? My optimism was misplaced and short lived. We pulled into cold, wet Hungry Mother State Park in southern Virginia, only to discover that Bertha was back to misbehaving.

If you pile a whole bunch of clothing, too much clothing, onto a closet rod, then bounce up and down the road for several hours, the plastic brackets will break, the rod will fall, and the clothes will become a tangled heap that is intermingled with the shoes, etc. that are on the closet floor. You learn some things the hard way.

While I sorted through the labyrinth of garments, my husband heard an audible, snake-like, hiss, which turned out to be a propane leak. Great. We resumed this crazy lifestyle, knowing that it was replete with imperfections. We proceeded, undeterred, to pull out the toolbox, rehang the curtain rod, and tighten a nut on the gas line. No hiss. Good sign.

All seemed to be reparable. Oh contraire, mon frère….

There was more in store.

“Optimism is a psychological disorder exhibited by those out of touch with reality.”

Oliver Pell

As we hooked up the water, we realized our rebellious RV, Bertha, would have the last laugh. Nothing was flowing from the faucets, not a drop. The water filter, however, was overflowing and spouting like Old Faithful, all over the bathroom floor. We tried a number of liquid seals and caulks, which only slowed the leak to a gush, rather than a geyser. No running water for us until we could find a replacement. Thank God for bottled water and bathhouses.

It was not an ideal start but even through rain, cold, and indoor flooding, we were able to discover beauty in our surroundings. Hope springs eternal.

After three days without indoor plumbing we pulled into Lazy Acres Campground in Lenoir City TN. It was here that we found Kyle, a certified RV mechanic (and angel on earth), who determined that we were missing an O-ring, which undoubtedly was lost during the winterization process. He helped us to replace it and we were, once again, up and running. There was a tiny drip, but we put a sponge under it, and were at least able to wash dishes, take showers and flush toilets.

It felt like Springtime when we arrived at Noccalula Falls Campground in Gadsden, AL. The sun was bright, and the air had warmed to almost 70 degrees. Not bad for January.

This municipal park has numerous camp sites, multiple hiking trails, and awe-inspiring water falls.

Downtown Gadsden is only a few miles from Noccalula Falls. It is charming, with old diners and old theatre’s lining the main street. There are restaurants and antique shops, and The Back Forty Brewery, which boasts a renowned selection of craft beer and live entertainment.

I highly recommend throwing this stop into your bucket list. There are so many hidden gems in our own backyards.

We hiked under cascading torrents on the Gorge Trail. The mist created spectacular prisms as the sun shone through the dew. We were enthralled with the power and majesty of running water…

—until we discovered that our water filter was leaking again. Trying to address it was a poor choice. Tinkering only made it worse.

Water, water everywhere.

It’s good to have a sense of humor in the face of nearly continual adversity. Bertha is an unreliable beast.

Stay tuned….